Vandita Naroola, Product Manager at Skribe, blogger and avid reader takes a stance on journalists being soft targets for violence in India.
Intolerance and anti-national seem to be buzzwords in the country at this time and the definition of free speech is easily moulded to suit the reality of people in power. The open assault on journalists at JNU this week along with recurring accounts of crime against journalists reported last year in September and October are proof why India ranked 14th on the Impunity Index report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, and was Asia’s deadliest country for media personnel in 2015.
This leads us to believe that we being the largest democracy in the world hardly work at providing a safe and conducive work environment to the fourth pillar of democracy – media and press.
In the case of JNU students shouting anti-Indian slogans at a meeting on February 9th, expressing solidarity with Kashmiris, which had them booked on sedition charges, freedom of speech was found deeply compromised.
Even though the Student Union and all leftists groups at JNU strongly criticized the sloganeering, the Delhi Police decided to make a statement by arresting Student Union President, Kanhaiya Kumar for sedition, based on complaints by BJP MP Maheish Girri and BJP’s student wing ABVP.
The Police, law enforcers, did nothing to uphold the law, when several journalists reporting at the Patiala House Court on Monday, where Kanhaiya was presented, were beaten up and abused by a group of lawyers. Top editors of national media and hundreds of journalists staged a protest, walking from the Press Club to the Supreme Court, demanding action against the clear violation of democratic rights. The journalists submitted a memorandum to the apex court’s Registrar seeking cancellation of licenses of lawyers involved in the assault.
Not easily extinguished, the fire bellowed stronger yesterday when Kanhaiya, who has been detained in judicial custody till March 2nd, was battered by some lawyers in court. A journalist and a student were also alleged collateral damage in the repeated violence.
Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Arun Jaitley, tweeted in support of the media saying they have an unhindered right to report and attacks against them are highly condemnable. Still, the appalling state of affairs in this matter needs immediate rectification.
The two critical instruments for preserving harmony – the State Police and the Government need to take firm action against this absolute abuse of power and public sentiment. We will not be walked over by people bowing to the whims of politicians. Don’t be a mute spectator, make your voice heard.